Lord's Day Liturgy

Girding Your Mental Loins

A few weeks ago in my Greek class we were working through 1 Peter 1:13. The ESV translates it:

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

I have a translation objection (which applies to the NASB and NIV as well as the ESV, and the new LSB is only half-right) and then an exhortation for the women and another for the men.

“Preparing your minds for action” is, well, weak. It’s actually a bad rendition. The ESV at leasts provides the correction in the footnote. The phrase should be “girding up the loins of your mind.” Not only are those the words in Greek, that picture is much more concrete, even though it’s a metaphor.

To gird up the loins is a pre-pants expression, when the robe or skirt or tunic was long enough to keep your legs warm when you’re sitting around but too obstructive for quickly moving around. To gird up was to wrap up, tie up, and so free up the legs. Girding was not the fighting, but if you didn’t do it, you’d be fighting through layers of fabric as through water.

Peter says—and I can’t find that anyone else ever said it like this, which would be why one dictionary calls this an “extraordinary imagistic use” (BAGD)—that God’s children should be girding up the loins of their minds. They should take care to pull in the loose ends, get their thoughts in order. This action anticipates the command, which in verse 13 is the command: hope.

Ladies, you tend to think that your mind is either ready or it isn’t, and that if it isn’t you shouldn’t be expected to hope. But when the sink is full of water and dishes, don’t throw your hands up, roll up your sleeves. When your anxieties are deep and distracting, get to girding up the loins of your mind.

Men, we tend just not to hope, which is disobedience. We think we have our heads on straight, and criticize those we think are too emotional. But we may be whipping our mental belts around, smacking others in the face, not actually anticipating great grace when Jesus returns.

We are not victims, we’ve been ransomed from futile ways that we might be holy, and hopeful, in all our conduct.